The Unnecessary Search

I’m convinced that Satan’s weapon of mass destruction against humanity is this. “Search for your own identity.” It started in Genesis didn’t it? Adam and Eve were secure in their Imago Dei. They really knew nothing else.  And they were completely immersed in unfettered peace and joy. They were the brightest of all God-created gems. There’s a reason He created them after he created everything else. Everything else, and that includes Everest, the oceans, the Amazon, the mighty and majestic beasts of the field, the universe, the micro-universe, were all created first so that this Diamond known as humanity could discover and cultivate the aforementioned to the glory of the Creator.  Another inference to the magnificence of humanity was that God actually “got down in the dirt” and molded man to His likeness whereas everything prior was “spoken” into existence.  And to create woman, God once again bypassed the spoken Word and with His mighty hand extracted a rib from man and inexplicably formed another human being even more beautiful than the first one.

The fact that God created humanity in this extra-special and personal manner should not be lost on any of us. It was a foreshadowing of a time thousands of years later when He, once again, got “down in the dirt” and by His shed blood rendered Satan’s WMD powerless forever!

Post-Eden, all of Biblical history leading up to and including the now has been a recycling of the same old tired story. It is a human genealogy of men trading their Imago Dei for something infinitely less valuable. Adam’s son Cain searched for his identity in the works of his hands. I can almost hear him proclaiming to anyone who would listen, “I’m Cain the hard-working farmer, see what I grew!”  How about Esau? He actually sold his identity for a bowl of stew! King Saul worked so hard to preserve his, that he went on a manhunt to exterminate the Davidic line. David, a man after God’s heart, managed to credit himself for God’s victories by creating for himself his own identity of a powerful King who could take anything or anyone he so pleased!

It would be easy to travel through the rest of the Bible and cherry pick more examples, but instead let’s look at more contemporary examples. What about the professional athlete who finds his identity in being a star and somehow manages to have no money left when he retires? What about the rock star who buys into the hype of thousands of screaming 12-year-old girls and snorts his way to an early grave? What about the intellectual who has found his identity in Atheism and deduces that the way to ignore your created image is to ignore the Creator?

So, you’re thinking, “What about normal people like me? I’m not a rocker, movie star, or pro quarterback. I’m just plodding through life trying to raise a family and earn a living to support them.

I would beg you to ask yourself the question? Would you be able to stand on firm ground if things were taken away from you? If you lost a child, if your spouse left you, if your company downsized and left you flipping burgers, if you worked with your hands and they were amputated in an accident, if you were an honor student with multiple degrees and you find out you have a brain tumor?

If you answer any of these questions with answers like, “I couldn’t go on, I wouldn’t want to live, I would end up in a mental hospital” then it’s probable that you have made these things, mind you, blessings from God, the identity that you are pursuing at any cost.

Life is a delicate balance. God has blessed us with life, good health, family, talents, skills, intellect, and a whole slew of gifts, but for what purpose? Why did God give Adam and Eve a paradise?

It certainly wasn’t so they would seek their own identities, which essentially meant leaving paradise. That’s the thing; the bowl of stew they chose drove them from paradise! It drove them from the One who made Eden a paradise. God Himself!

I just turned 45 last month, and my journey has not been much different from those in the Bible or those who walk the earth now. I have worked like hell to peddle my identity to the highest bidder. As someone who has played music since age 5, I tried to find my identity in being a musician. I had dreams of being famous, rich, successful, and powerful, and all this, because God blessed me with a gift.

That’s what Satan has done for centuries as he entices you with the very gifts that God bestows. He tries to convince you that God gave them to you for your glory and not his. He tries to convince you that your gifts will make you a god and that God doesn’t like that. There’s always a little bit of truth swirled into his lies. Yes, God doesn’t want us to be “gods”, but it’s not because He’s some petty, jealous human like we are, but it’s because there is only one God and He’s it! God being God IS our identity!  God being God is our paradise!  God is the context where all of our gifts and talents should be cultivated! In effect, God is our Eden.

Here is my mantra for 2012, and while I expect to get off track like I always do, I am really praying to God to rest on this for the coming year.  These words come from Eric Mason, pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He said “Whatever talent or gift has been affirmed as yours, hone it, study it, fuel it with bible and gospel and unleash it for God’s glory!”

If you are a musician like me, don’t let “musician” be your identity. If you are a stay-at-home mom, don’t let that high calling be what defines you. If you are an athlete, teacher, civil servant, minister, CEO, burger-flipper, ditch-digger, whatever, don’t allow the allure of these callings replace your Imago Dei.

All of our good gifts come from above and can be taken away, and in fact will be. The only thing that has a chance to remain standing is our identity, provided we haven’t traded it away for a bowl of stew.

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God Himself (Jonathan Edwards in Contemporary Language)

Jonathan-edwards
 Ok, I'm going to do my best "Eugene Peterson "  and attempt to paraphrase a Jonathan Edwards paragraph from his sermon entitled "God Glorified in the Work of Redemption, by the Greatness of Man's Dependence upon Him, in the Whole of it."  (by the length of the title, you can see why I want to paraphrase the title as well)


"God Himself"

The one who has been rescued by God finds that God Himself is the ultimate good for which he has been rescued. He realizes that God rescued him, in fact, purchased him so that he could truly enjoy God.  God completes man, not the other way around. God Himself is the nourishment for the rescued one's starving soul.  He satisfies the soul that longs to be satisfied yet has failed in it's attempt to fill itself with other things, even God's own good gifts. While the world pursues money and assets, food, better living, nice homes, fashion, and fame, the rescued one treasures God more than anything. God Himself is the bread that nourishes and sustains him. He realizes that God Himself is Eternal Life now and hereafter. God Himself is his home, where he finds security and hospitality.  God Himself is the righteous covering concealing his nakedness. God Himself is his eventual exaltation.

When the rescued one dies and enters heaven, he will be overwhelmed by the presence of God. He will delight first and foremost in seeing the glorious One. The other beauties and blessings of heaven will be just that. Other. When he wakes up in heaven, God Himself will enlighten him and nourish him, because He will be THE light and THE food and drink.  Heaven is indeed a paradise, but only because God is there.  In heaven, the rescued one will no longer settle for inferior entertainment such as television, sports, the internet, cinema, art, reading, and recreation.  God Himself, indeed His very essence, will entertain the rescued one's mind and he will never grow tired or bored! Never! He will be filled with God's love. God Himself will provide the love, and it will be returned right back to Him!  The rescued one will still have the capacity to enjoy the gifts of God, things like mountains, rivers, oceans, galaxies, planets, animals, food, fine wine, angels, other people. But he will not enjoy them as things to be abused and used for his own selfish pleasure as he often does now. Instead he will enjoy God's gifts as the way God intended. Simply, as a material means of seeing God's glory, as well as a means to enjoying God Himself!